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A Guide to Successful LMS Implementation

If your new learning management system is going to become a central piece in your learning delivery approach, successful LMS implementation is crucial (to take full advantage of the cost you're paying for your LMS).

Modern learning management systems can be game-changers for teams and entire companies. The concept of a learning management system has become so much more than the university-only tool that many legacy platforms were designed to be. As Josh Bersin, founder at Bersin by Deloitte explains:

The modern learning world is filled with expert-authored videos, expert blogs and articles, Tweets, webcasts, and an ever-expanding marketplace of external (and internal) content. The Learning Management Systems must become a true ‘learning system.

When a company is able to centralize all of this diverse content and use a Learning Management System to leverage it into a comprehensive – and consistent – learning delivery system, it takes a huge step toward a more efficient and effective workforce. Maybe that’s why, as reported by Technavio, the global corporate e-learning market is expected to reach $31 billion in revenue by the end of 2020. That amounts to a whopping 11.41% compound annual growth rate over the next four years!

But in order to really take advantage of everything a Learning Management System has to offer, you need to understand:

  1. Why you are adopting a Learning Management System
  2. How to effectively execute an LMS integration that optimizes your operations
  3. How to use a Learning Management System to help foster a culture of learning at your company

This can be overwhelming, especially for a first-time Learning Management System user, so we’ve outlined everything you need to know below. In this guide, we’ll cover:

  1. The top reasons people seek out a Learning Management System
  2. How to integrate your new Learning Management System
  3. A detailed explanation of proper LMS implementation
  4. Tips for using your Learning Management System to build culture
  5. Final takeaways

Top Reasons People Seek Out a Learning Management System

Before you start to wade through the literally hundreds of currently available Learning Management System solutions, you need to figure out exactly what you are expecting to achieve with your chosen tool. Ask yourself, “Why am I seeking out a Learning Management System in the first place? What problem or inefficiency am I trying to eliminate by implementing a Learning Management System?”

The answer is going to be different for every company, but here are four of the most common reasons why people turn to a Learning Management System.

1. Improving employee productivity and performance

As a manager, it’s your responsibility to make everyone on your team better. Ideally, even the most experienced and well-qualified hires will improve their performance over time, and a Learning Management System can be a critical vehicle for that improvement. By enabling you to offer your employees the resources and opportunities necessary to engage in on-the-job-learning not only during on-boarding, but on a weekly, monthly, or yearly basis, a Learning Management System helps build employee skills and align their business values. This increases the value of your human capital, but it also conveys to your team that you are invested in their growth, which itself is highly valuable, as people tend to work harder for bosses that show they care.

2. Increasing employee engagement

Many companies hope their Learning Management Systems will boost their employees’ workplace engagement. According to Gallup, 70% of workers in the United States are not engaged at work, at least partially because they feel that they aren’t personally getting anything out of their job. Using a Learning Management System to deliver frequent learning content geared toward the needs, interests, and skill-sets of your workers is a great way to counteract this feeling. This is especially effective with Millennial employees. Research shows that “training and development” is the most coveted job benefit among Millennial workers, surpassing even the likes of “cash bonuses” and “free private healthcare.”

3. Gaining a clearer picture of what’s going on

As Peter Drucker may or may not have said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Attribution aside, it’s indisputable that data play a huge role in the modern workplace. When it comes to employee learning, though, neither legacy systems nor in-person seminars have much to offer in terms of data analysis. As such, companies turn to Learning Management Systems in order to get a better idea of exactly where their employees are and how well they are performing on their learning assignments, as the best Learning Management Systems have powerful data collection and analytics functions built right in.

4. Reducing costs

Of course, in the end, a company isn’t going to do anything unless it’s financially prudent. If it doesn’t make dollars, it doesn’t make sense, as the saying goes. A good Learning Management System typically reduces the cost of corporate learning endeavors. Between on-boarding, re-skilling to accommodate for ever-changing technology, and general continuing education, corporate learning budgets can easily run out of control. By moving content online, streamlining content management, and facilitating informal on-the-job learning, a Learning Management System makes it considerably less expensive to provide the kind of in-depth learning that every company desires.

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LMS Implementation Checklist (the nuts & bolts)

Below are the most high level, basic steps you should keep in mind for a quick and easy Learning Management System setup for your team.

  1. Brand your Learning Management System. Implementing your brand guide into your Learning Management System is a great way to drive culture, draw employees in with a strong design experience, and make the adoption process more seamless overall. Look for a Learning Management System that allows for some level of customization and start here when implementing.
  2. Select Categories. What are your key learning goals for your new Learning Management System? Determine which categories are most crucial for your team and begin building those out. Most Learning Management System platforms should accommodate custom categories and topics that, ideally, you’ll already have defined before bringing your team onboard.
  3. User Training. Get your Admin team on-boarded and educated! This is a critical step that will create a set of educators in your company who will help others get accustomed to the new platform too.
  4. Content Migration. Start updating and adding your content onto the platform. Tip: it helps to have some content developed long before you begin Learning Management System rollout in your company.
  5. Platform Rollout. Now that you’re all set up, it’s time to bring your team onboard. Hosting a workshop or training lunch can help to speed up the process and ensure some level of retention.

LMS Implementation Best Practices: How to Ensure Success

Beyond the basics, here are some important factors that will help you to successfully incorporate a Learning Management System into your operations. In order to guarantee successful Learning Management System adoption and ensure you get the most out of your new system, you need to keep the following five tips in mind.

1. Implement a measured roll-out, and keep the lines of communication open

The most important component of successful Learning Management System integration is communication. Your employees will likely be wary of your new software at first, as it is human nature to stick to what we know. As such, make a point of sitting everyone down and explaining why you’ve chosen to adopt a Learning Management System, how the adoption will make everyone’s lives easier, and what the implementation process is going to look like. It is, of course, your prerogative – indeed, your responsibility – as a manager or executive to use whatever tools you think will improve your operations, but widespread acceptance among your employees is absolutely essential to an effective roll-out.

In addition to frequent and forthright communication, most situations call for a measured, piecemeal roll-out. Even if you’re a great communicator, if you throw a paradigm-shifting platform at your team all at once, people are going to get overwhelmed. You can certainly activate all of your Learning Management System features and components from the get-go; just don’t expect your team to be ready to use them all on day one.

2. Take advantage of senior staff and/or workplace role models

The insights and experiences senior employees have collected over years and years in the workforce can be invaluable to their younger counterparts, but many managers refrain from leveraging this expertise for fear of muddying the chain of command. When trying to get a Learning Management System up and running, this is a terrible mistake.The best Learning Management Systems allow managers to create and refine interactive, engaging learning content in a matter of minutes, making it easy to incorporate suggestions from senior staff as they trickle in. Establishing this kind of collaborative relationship with your most experienced workers greatly increases the likelihood that they will embrace your company’s new platform. Since these are the employees who most often serve as internal role models and thought leaders, if you manage to get them on board, chances are the rest of your team will follow.

3. Automate as much as possible

If you oversee more than a handful of employees, you’re going to want to automate at least some of your LMS operations. The beauty of using a Learning Management System to execute corporate learning endeavors is that you can deliver highly personalized content to each employee without having to manually juggle dozens or hundreds (or thousands!) of employees’ individual progress.

Not only does this facilitate “just-in-time” learning – that is, the right employee getting the right learning materials at the right time – it also serves as a way of improving supervisor-supervisee relationships. Without an automated delivery and progress-monitoring mechanism, managers have to constantly probe their team as to “how things are coming along” and “what materials have or have not been finished,” a probing that frequently comes off as nagging. An automated Learning Management System offers managers the ability to orchestrate team growth, productivity, and efficiency all without having to micromanage employees’ everyday operations, which constitutes something of a win-win.

4. Integrate your Learning Management System with all other existing workplace tools

As mentioned in our discussion of communication, workers are typically hesitant to change their routine. This stubbornness will only be exacerbated if your new Learning Management System fails to seamlessly integrate with the core tools already in use in your office. Whether it’s alongside Slack, Salesforce, or G Suite, your Learning Management System needs to function well within your unique technological landscape or else it will become more of an impediment than anything else.

Adequate integrative capabilities should certainly be in the forefront of your mind while you are shopping around for Learning Management System, but it’s also important to remember to set up any and all integrations prior to introducing your Learning Management System of choice into a live work environment. A bad first impression is never helpful, so you’ve got to make sure employees are able to easily access everything they need on day one.

5. (Eventually) go all in

While, as explained above, a measured, piecemeal approach to Learning Management System implementation is usually the way to go, this doesn’t mean that you should refrain from going all in on your Learning Management System once your team has been acclimated. In fact, quite the opposite is true. If, after the requisite adjustment period, you relegate your Learning Management System to the periphery of your day-to-day operations, your employees are going to get the impression that you are not fully confident in its value.

To counteract this, it’s useful to turn your Learning Management System into a centralized hub for all of your company content, learning related or not. If you make your Learning Management System the heart and soul of as many internal operations as possible, it can function as a powerful pillar toward which everyone will gravitate. This is the first step to forging strong company culture, one that is both unified and deeply rooted in an ethos of learning.

Tips for Using Your New Learning Management System to Build Culture

Ultimately, though its primary functions will always be on-boarding and continuing learning, part of the true value of a modern LMS is its ability to foster a thriving company culture. “Culture” is a difficult beast to pin down, but it pretty clearly begins with something we talked about earlier: engagement. You’re not going to have much of a company culture without widespread buy-in, and employees aren’t going bite unless they feel valued and remain interested in their work.

As a start, here are five ways that you can use your new Learning Management System to boost workplace and engagement and, in the process, solidify company culture.

1. Building community

We all hope to mold our team into a community close-knit enough to be entrusted with the work of collaboratively executing a grand corporate vision. Social-enabled LMSs not only promote cross-expertise and cross-team informal mentorships, they also enable learners to interact and communicate before, during, and after in-person workshops and meetings. Both of these outcomes reinforce the idea that “we’re all in this together,” which is a sentiment central to team-driven success.

2. Offering encouragement

Relatedly, social-enabled Learning Management Systems are tremendously effective at encouraging the “crowd-sourcing” of workplace recognition. The most effective employees are those who show up every morning excited about being at work, and acknowledging the small everyday successes that fall through the cracks between annual performance reviews and employee of the month awards is a great way to increase general enthusiasm. Whether it’s coming from their direct manager, a C-suite exec, or a teammate, the average employee deeply appreciates when their hard work is recognized, even in a way as simple as a “like” or a share of their Learning Management System achievements.

3. Gamifying corporate learning

Speaking of trendy things like “liking” and sharing, gamification is all the rage of late, with many companies even employing game-based recruiting and job application assessments. Indeed, according to Ambient Insight, global revenues for game-based learning products surpassed $2.6 billion in 2016, and are expected to exceed $7 billion by 2021. Many experts argue that games engage long-term memory and stimulate mental modularity in ways traditional learning does not, making Learning Management System-based gamified learning a promising proposition indeed.

4. Personalizing the learning process

Perhaps because of the highly-customized digital landscapes in which we all operate, modern learners tend to prefer an educational experience that is tailored to their personal needs, learning speed, and unique learning style. Providing this level of personalization has long been all but impossible, but with an effective Learning Management System, managers can easily adapt every piece of corporate learning content to suit the needs of each team-member. Some might argue that this is over-indulgent, but regardless of what you believe, it delivers results.

5. Keeping everyone in the know

A versatile LMS can easily function as a replacement for your company bulletin board, and, given our increasingly virtual world, will usually offer greater visibility than the old corkboard and pushpin setups. If you provide on-site lunches on certain days, consider posting the weekly menu to your Learning Management System. Or, if you’ve taken community-building to the next level and have scheduled evening or weekend employee outings, list all the details in your universally-accessible Learning Management System location.

Final Thoughts

If you put everything outlined above into action as you begin to implement your Learning Management System, you should find yourself in a great position. In truth, if you’ve already done your due diligence and figured out which Learning Management System you’re going to work with, then the hard part is over! To be sure, successful Learning Management System adoption is a methodical process, but as long as you take all of the appropriate steps, it need not be a painful one.

Time to full implementation will vary depending on a company’s size and its access to internal support resources, but on average, it should take about a month from the time you select your platform to the time you get your employees up and running in the system.

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